Swarming invaders stopped at border

AQISFN
6 May 2004

A swarm of exotic Asian honey bees detected and destroyed in Cairns Port today could have wreaked more than a billion dollars’ worth of damage to crops that depend on honey bees for pollination, as well as devastating Australian honey industry.

The exotic bees had hitched a ride on a vessel that regularly transports goods to and from West Papua.

AQIS was alerted to the find by a stevedore, working to AQIS protocols, allowing officers to immediately contain and eradicate the swarm. 

AQIS Far North Assistant Regional Manager Loren Schipke says, “AQIS maintains 100 per cent inspection of the vessel because it comes from a high-risk area. We are on full alert for Asian honey bees and rigorously inspect the holds of all vessels from West Papua.”

If the bees hadn’t been discovered, contained and destroyed in time, they could have posed a significant risk to Australia’s domestic honey industry and to the agriculture industries that depend on pollination by honey bees.

According to Loren, "Asian honeybees carry exotic mites that could weaken domestic honey bees, reducing their ability to gather nectar and pollen.” 

The only way to eradicate the mites is to destroy all bee colonies and hives in the affected area which would have an immediate impact on Far North Queensland’s honey industry and on agriculturalists who depend on bees to pollinate their crops.

AQIS scientific staff will establish over the next few days whether the swarm carried the variety of mite that could affect Australia’s valuable agricultural industries. 

“This is an excellent example of the close relationships we enjoy with industry, including the stevedores and the company who operate the vessel, which enables AQIS to maintain the effectiveness of our inspection systems.” Loren says.